Norfolk County thinks it has a potential solution to a rogue gas well near Silver Hill that is spewing toxic hydrogen sulphide gas in uncontrolled amounts.
Last week, Marlene Miranda, general manager of health and social services in Norfolk and Haldimand, said the answer could lie in drilling a relief well in another location where the county can control emissions while treating contaminated water before it is released into the environment.
Residents in the area of Forestry Farm Road and McDowell Road West like the idea of drilling a relief well.
But they’d like to see it drilled in the area of a gas vent along Big Creek on North Walsingham Road 10 that was drilled in 1968 but capped in 2015. Once that vent was plugged, toxic emissions at several gas wells in Silver Hill have been an expensive nuisance since August 2017.
“Why try something new that will cost a lot of money when the first relief well worked well for 50 years?” local resident John Spanjers asked on behalf of himself and his neighbours.
The vent in Big Creek Spanjers refers to is located about a mile to the southwest of the recent emissions on Forestry Farm Road. Miranda and her team of consultants have considered Spanjers’ suggestion but have rejected it because they don’t know if that will work or simply give rise to new problems.
“That could potentially have unintended consequences for other property owners,” Miranda said, referencing “the walking well effect.”
“The goal now is a relief well with some water treatment.”
The strong smell of rotten eggs near the intersection of Forestry Farm Road and McDowell Road West has prompted the county to post skull-and-crossbones signage warning of toxic emissions.
The problem is hard to solve because the gas is venting in a wetland under water and muck. Authorities aren’t sure if the gas is emanating from a hole that can be plugged or from a fissure in the ground deep beneath.
Hydrogen sulphide gas is a common byproduct of natural gas production. It is corrosive, flammable and damages lungs and airways in high concentrations.
In her report to council, Miranda said monitoring in recent months suggests hydrogen sulphide concentrations at nearby home are “negligible.”
Residents welcome the findings but Spanjers said they feel any well drilled to relieve subterranean pressure should be located where this function was performed for decades further to the southwest.